Tips on hiring a car and driving tips

First you will need your full driving licence. If you still have an original, one-piece UK licence, this is fine – you will just need to show your passport as a photo ID as well. International renters must present a valid license from their country of residence.  As a visitor, you will generally find that most car hire companies will require you to be over 21 to rent a car, and there is usually a surcharge for renting a car if you are under 25. 

To hire a vehicle, you will usually need to use a credit card to pay for it, and many companies will place a hold on your card for a fixed amount, to cover them in the event of accidents. Our tip would be to find a credit card that includes liability cover and accident cover for car rental, so you can avoid the very high fees that rental car companies charge for this service.

State Laws

One of the first things to be aware of with the USA is that there are generally two types of law – federal laws, which apply to the whole country, and state laws, which vary depending on the state you are in.

Most traffic laws are set at a state level, which means that they vary depending on the state you are in – things like speed limits, age limits and drink or drug driving laws.

Some things are country wide of course. All traffic for example drives on the right (except for the US Virgin Islands), you need a driving license to drive, and there are speed limits on all roads, although these vary by state.

Checking the car

Next, take a moment to look around the car. Do not just jump in the car and be in a rush to take it out on the road. Take a little time to familiarise yourself with the controls, the lights and the air con before you start. You do not want to be doing this driving at 70 mph on the Interstate if you get too hot or cold.

Have you ever driven an automatic car? If not you have to try really hard to keep that left foot off the pedal. Hitting the brake of an automatic with your left “clutch” foot brings the car to an abrupt stop and is not only uncomfortable for passengers but also very dangerous for anyone in a car behind you. For extra help to try and stop this for the first few miles try bending your leg back so that your foot is almost touching your seat.

Finally, look for the parking brake. US cars often have a parking brake that is operated by your foot (your left foot) down by the pedals.

Once you have familiarised yourself then the next step is to get out of the airport or parking lot. Be prepared, a little research can be crucial. The maps that the US car hire companies supply are normally not always that good. It is always better to come prepared for that first journey with your own map or printed directions if you are not using a Sat Nav. We will move on now to some basic rules that will not be familiar to you, but you will need to know for your first journey.

The biggest difference if you are from the UK (this is not relevant if you are from Europe) is that you will be driving on the right-hand side of the road.  On quiet roads it is actually very easy to forget this so in the first few days you will need to keep your concentration levels high. Turning left on a large intersection is also very alien to us Brits, try to follow the arrows on the road, which is by far the easiest way. Getting going from a parking space is also a time when it is easy to slip up and set off on the wrong side of the road.

Drink driving rules are strictly enforced, don’t do it!!   Also be careful if you have a drink on the plane on the way over as you could still be over the limit when you pick up your car. In some states it is even illegal to have alcohol inside the cabin of the car, to be safe when purchasing put it in the boot (known as the trunk in the US).

Roads

The road names you see hanging from cables above the road are the names of the road you are crossing, not the road you are on! This often catches out drivers new to driving in the USA.

Speed limits are strictly enforced, our advice is to not break them, they are in MPH and very easy to see so there is no excuse.

Alabama, Florida and Georgia all have ‘Move-over’ laws that require drivers to give wide berth to police or emergency* vehicles on the roadside, by either vacating the lane adjacent to the vehicles or slowing to 20 mph below the posted speed limit when approaching the scene. *Tow trucks also count as emergency vehicles when the lights are flashing, and a vehicle is being assisted. This law has now been widened to include service vehicles performing services on the side of the road.

Traffic signals/lights in the USA are normally very visible and hung directly above the road you are on, obey them as Red Light enforcement cameras are becoming common and we are having more and more people coming home having $160 fines waiting for them. In the USA there is an expectation, that if no pedestrians are present, you will turn right on a red light. If it is not actually allowed at a particular intersection there will be a sign saying, ‘no right turn on red’.

If you do turn right on red, the coast must be clear of pedestrians and cars coming either from your left or doing a U-Turn from your right and you must first come to a complete stop (this is very important and strictly enforced).

Roundabouts are fairly rare in the USA compared to what we are used to in Europe, so on minor roads you will find 4 way crossroads (sometimes with 2 lanes going into it from each road like one of our Dual Carriageways) the rule here is to obey the sign and STOP then proceed in order of arrival at the crossroads regardless of whereabouts on the crossroads they arrived.

Drive on the right-hand side of the road (except in the US Virgin Islands!)

Observe all posted speed limits.

Don’t drive if you are over the legal blood alcohol limit, in all states this is a blood alcohol concentration at or above 0.08 percent. Penalties vary by state, but basically, you don’t want to do it.

You must stop at all STOP signs

You must stop for stopped school buses with flashing lights and a stop sign

At least the driver and front seat passenger must wear a seatbelt

Interstate Roads

As the name suggests, an Interstate is a road that runs across states. These can be compared to Motorways in the UK, or the autobahns in Germany. They are usually at least two lanes, and they have on and off ramps rather than stop signs or traffic lights.

Interstates keep the same number regardless of state – Interstate 40 for example, runs through eight states, and is called Interstate 40 in all of them.

Maximum speeds on the Interstate vary by state, from 60 mph through to 80 mph. Speed limits are clearly posted and should be obeyed.

State Roads

A State Road is specific to a state. State Road 54 in one State is going to be a different road to a State road in another state.

State roads vary from dual-carriageway styles through to single lane highways, and as they pass through towns, cities and villages, the speed limit can vary from as low as 20 mph up to 75 mph. As always, check local state regulation and obey posted speed limits.

County Roads

A county road is any road that is maintained by the local county authority, rather than the state or federal system. County roads are usually smaller, slower roads, and they have a “C” or “CR” designation, followed by a number.

They do vary in size and quality, from freeway sized right through to unpaved roads, depending on the area, traffic, and local county budget. Again, as they vary hugely in quality and size, speed limits on County Roads also vary tremendously.

Children, Child restraints and Child seats

Child restraint laws require children to travel in approved child restraint devices, and some allow or need older children to use safety belts. The age at which safety belts can be used instead of child restraints changes depending upon the state.  Normally younger children are covered by child restraint laws, and safety belt laws cover older children and adults.

Guide on giving a tip

Tipping is customary in the United States, and in Orlando, specifically, the hospitality professionals who work hard to provide a once-in-a-lifetime experience that’ll help you and your family to escape everyday life and leave you wanting more. But, at the same time, that doesn’t mean every experience or professional requires a tip.

Transportation

You’re on your way to your dream vacation and need to get around Orlando a bit. While doing so, it’s always a good idea to have some extra cash on you to tip the folks that will help make your travels easier.

  • Using a door-to-door shuttle service to get to and from the airport? A 15% tip plus $1 per bag is ideal.
  • If you receive assistance through the airport by way of electric cart drivers or attendants, providing a $2-3 tip would be great.
  • Taking a shuttle that is courtesy of your hotel? Typically, these drivers do not expect a tip, but $1-2 couldn’t hurt to brighten their day.
  • If you valet parking during your stay, $2-5 for these attendants is appreciated.
  • Taxi drivers typically receive 10-20%.

Hotels

You’ve made it to your hotel – let the relaxation begin! The hospitality teams throughout Orlando hotels (and, especially, at the on-site properties) work hard to ensure that your vacation is one you’ll be talking about for the rest of your life.

  • If you’re headed to concierge to ask questions or need help in getting around, no tip is necessary. However, if concierge aids you in booking a dinner reservation, a tip of $5 would be customary. If they’re helping you to book tours or tickets, $20-25 is customary.
  • Did a doorman help you by hailing a cab? $1 is a nice tip; if the doorman helps you with your luggage, $2 per bag is suggested. If a porter helped you, $2 for the first bag and $1 for each additional one is good (if you have heavier bags, you may want to increase the tip amount).
  • If you ordered room service, tipping 15% of the bill is recommended.
  • It’s nice to tip housekeeping staff $1-2 per day, per occupant in your room. It’s advised that you leave the tip daily rather than at the end of your stay, as you may have different staff each day.

Dining

It’s now time to refuel with a delicious meal and, perhaps, a drink or two with one of those fun little umbrellas – the true symbol of vacation! Tipping in the restaurant industry is customary in the United States, as many of those serving us make only a few dollars an hour (and rely on gratuities as a major part of their income).

  • Typically, in a full-service restaurant, tipping 15-20% of a total bill is a good place to start – and remember that you are tipping based on the quality of service and not the quality of food. If you’ve received incredible service – or, perhaps, it’s around the holidays – you may want to provide a larger tip.
  • If you are using a coupon or receiving a discounted meal, keep in mind that you should tip based on the full price of the meal before the discount is applied.
  • For bartenders, usually $1-2 per drink is appreciated; however, again, if you’ve received incredible service, or if the drinks are more complex or offer a show element to them, you may wish to tip more.
  • Regarding counter-service meals, there is usually no need to tip.

Throughout your stay

On top of the three topics mentioned above, the following are other areas you may experience on your travels where tipping is ideal:

  • Restroom attendants can be tipped $1.
  • Golf caddies can be tipped $10-$25.
  • Pool attendants can receive $2-5 for each service they offer.
  • Boat tour operators or other recreational attendants can be tipped $5-10.
  • If you receive a massage or manicure or have your hair done, at least 15% of your bill is suggested.
  • Pizza delivery is tipped at least $2.

Bad Service

At most establishments, if you feel the level of service or quality of your meal was not up to par, the best way to resolve this issue is to ask to speak with the manager. When doing so, explain to him your concerns, and even let him know why you are leaving little to no tip. This also provides the manager an opportunity to address the issue, and helps the staff know what they did that could be improved upon in the future.

Keep in mind that this is only a guide. Tipping is truly your way of showing satisfaction with a delightful experience or honouring the hard work and quality of service and care you received.

Florida tolls

Using tolls in Florida

For a first timer it can be difficult to avoid the tolls leaving MCO airport as both the major routes that the signs direct you to follow for Disney or universal go through at least one. Miami is also surrounded with tolls.

Your rental car will come with sun-pass and E-pass toll system that will automatically pay your tolls and charge the credit card you leave with the rental car agency. This normally takes a month or two. You will be charged a fee for this in addition to the tolls. Different rental car companies have different fee structures. Some charge you only for the days you use it, others charge you for every day of your rental or even every toll (Dollar and thrifty both charge $15 PER TOLL if you don’t take their all-inclusive package). Please check your individual company if you choose this option. If you do pick this, you can use the sunpass express or E-PASS lanes at all the tolls. If driving in or around Miami this might be your only option since a number of the toll booths are cashless.

If you decide to pay as you go, first make sure that the sunpass device, if fitted in your car, is disabled. This normally has a small lever beside it to switch it off. Some tolls don’t use this device and instead use your licence plate via cameras, plate pass, so don’t panic if you don’t have one installed. All major rental cars are signed up to the toll system so you will not get a fine if you drive thru a toll – just the fee from the rental car company.

You can buy your own sunpass system if you want. It may not actually be worth it unless you visit several times and go through lots of tolls or cashless ones. There is also a trial for a collect at the airport toll pass. Tolls are increasing in the Orlando area as are cashless/unmanned ones, so this may become an essential purchase in the future.

On approach to a toll booth there will be several signs telling you the cost, the type of toll booth and directing you to the cash lanes if applicable. At a toll booth in addition to the sunpass lanes you will have one or both of the options “cash only” and “change receipts” (unless cashless around Miami). Cash only will involve the act of throwing the right coins into a bucket from your window. You do stop so it’s not that hard. A little display will register the amount you have paid, it is worth checking this before you drive on. “Change receipt” are manned booths. You pay with notes or cash, and as the name suggests they will give you change. You will normally only encounter the cash only on the entry or exit from minor roads. Toll booths can be found on entry, whilst on, and leaving a toll road, but not necessarily all of these depending on your journey. Obviously only pick a lane that has the green cross above rather than the red, “lane closed” cross.

If you find you don’t have cash to pay. You can either collect a small envelope from the toll booth (if there is one) and pay that way or wait for your rental car company to charge you (this will incur fees as above). All rental cars are equipped for this, even if you’ve not taken the option when you collected your car.

Don’t be scared of toll roads, they are not that hard. If worried about having change available on arrival at the airport, then visit one of the shops and ask to change a note into quarters (you won’t need anything other than quarters). For most people the drive to Kennedy Space centre will be the most tolls, typically around $5 over several toll booths (all manned on the main highway at the time of writing this).

One more thing. When approaching a manned booth in the rain, TURN OFF your windscreen wipers.

Which Roller Coaster and Rides has the biggest drops

Orlando’s big drop Roller Coaster and Rides

From exciting roller coaster, drenching water rides and unique drop towers, you’ll find dozens of ways to get your adrenaline pumping as Orlando’s theme parks are home to some of the most exhilarating thrill rides around.!

Splash Mountain roller coaster at Magic Kingdom

With a drop of only 50 feet, Splash Mountain certainly has the shortest drop on our list, but it is one of the most beloved flume rides in existence. With hundreds of animated characters and a fun story, riders love Splash Mountain for more than just the drop. And even at only 50 feet, don’t underestimate the thrill of reaching 40 mph while dropping head-first into the briar patch with Br’er Rabbit.

Jurassic Park River Adventure at Universal’s Islands of Adventure

Board your raft and prepare to explore the gentle giants that roam Jurassic Park. Of course, as is always the case, something goes wrong and the dinosaurs escape, sending your boat off course. Next thing you know, you find yourself face to face with a T-Rex, before the floor falls out beneath you. Your boat falls down an 85-foot drop reaching a speed of 50 mph, before splashing down into the water below.

The Incredible Hulk Coaster roller coaster at Universal’s Islands of Adventure

Feel the power of the Hulk as you’re catapulted from 0 to 40 mph in 2 seconds, sending you 150 feet into the air, and then into a weightless zero-gravity roll. Feel your adrenaline pumping as you race up to 67 mph, and drop down 105 feet on this high-speed superhero-themed roller coaster.

Doctor Doom’s Fearfall at Universal’s Islands of Adventure
Prepare to be shot straight up 185 feet, only to freefall back down 151 feet immediately after on Doctor Doom’s Fearfall inside of Marvel Super Hero Island at Islands of Adventure. That initial launch up propels you with more thrust than a 747 jet, hitting you with more G-force than a space shuttle. Sound frightening? That’s exactly what Doctor Doom is counting on.

Kraken Unleashed roller coaster at SeaWorld Orlando

Prepare for excitement as you climb up nearly 150 feet on the chain lift hill of this floorless roller coaster at SeaWorld Orlando. Based on the mythological creature, Kraken Unleashed drops you 144 feet at a speed of 65 mph. Then it twists and inverts you along a 4,000-foot long track, never letting you catch your breath – because, after all, you’re in the clutches of the Kraken.

Mako roller coaster at SeaWorld Orlando

Mako is the newest extreme roller coaster in Orlando, and Central Florida’s first “hyper coaster.” The first drop on this ride packs a punch, with a height of 200 feet and a top speed of 73 mph. One of the best features of this attraction named after one of the ocean’s fastest sharks, is all of the air-time moments. That’s when you feel like you’re weightless, and start to come out of your seat a little. You really feel like you’re flying when you’re gliding along on Mako.

The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Unlike any other drop-tower attraction around, the Tower of Terror at Disney’s Hollywood Studios takes you on a strange journey through the fourth dimension, and into The Twilight Zone. After experiencing a close encounter with the ghosts that haunt the old hotel, you enter the old elevator shaft that was once struck by lightning. With randomized drop profiles, you can never be sure how many times the tower may drop you, but you can be certain of one thing – there will be at least one full 130 foot drop, where you fall 13 stories at a speed faster than gravity.

Hollywood Rip, Ride, Rockit roller coaster at Universal Orlando Resort

You get to pick a song for your roller coaster experience on this unique ride inside of Universal Studios Florida. The music starts thumping as your heart rate starts pumping because this ride starts with a 90-degree lift hill that sends you straight down 167 feet right out of the gate. You’ll reach 65 mph and head into an exhilarating non-inverted loop. And all of that is just in the first few seconds of the ride!

SheiKra at Busch Gardens Tampa

Also at Busch Gardens Tampa, the SkeiKra dive coaster is a unique roller coaster sporting a floorless design, allowing your feet to dangle beneath you. It’s most surprising feature however, is that just before the first massive drop, the coaster train stops for a few seconds, allowing you to look straight down at the 90 degree spill you’re about to take. The fall is 200 feet and you reach speeds of 70 mph almost instantly as soon as you start to fall. As if that weren’t enough, the coaster then takes you into an Immelmann loop, and then onto a second drop into an underground tunnel. It’s an action-packed experience that coaster fans don’t want to miss.

Falcon’s Fury at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay

By far the tallest attraction on our list, Falcon’s Fury is a freestanding drop tower that takes riders up 300 feet before dropping them down, face-first, towards the ground. As you rise up to the top, a trip that takes about a minute to complete, you get an incredible view of downtown Tampa and miles beyond. Then the ride system pivots your seat 90 degrees midair, so you’re facing the ground as it sends you soaring straight down at 60 mph. This roller coaster is only the for absolute bravest riders in your group.

 

Family Friendly Coasters in Orlando

Family friendly coasters 

When it comes to roller coasters, thrill seekers come in all ages and sizes. That’s why Orlando’s theme parks have rides for everyone, every speed and every style. For all of the gravity-defying rides for the fearless riders, there are also plenty of amusing rides that spin and soar while promising fantastic fun for all heights and ages in Orlando.

Universal Orlando Resort Family friendly Coasters

Woody Woodpecker’s Nuthouse Coaster

What happens when you let a wacky woodpecker design and build his very own roller coaster? You get a nuthouse on wheels, as seen at Universal Studios Florida! Woody definitely proved he’s got a few screws loose when he designed this kid-sized coaster that’s fun for all ages. Height requirement: 36 in (91cm)

Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts

Find yourself in the middle of the magic as you enter Gringotts bank at Universal Studios Florida’s Diagon Alley. You’ll need the whole family to help navigate the perilous underground vaults on this coaster and evade the wrath of malicious villains, as well as trolls and other creatures that stand between you and your return to Diagon Alley. Height requirement: 42 in (107cm)

Flight of the Hippogriff

The story comes to life on this family-friendly coaster at Universal’s Islands of Adventure’s Hogsmeade. Follow Hagrid’s instructions as you board the hippogriff, and then take off into spirals and dives around the pumpkin patch and Hagrid’s hut. Height requirement: 36 in (91cm)

Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts

Find yourself in the middle of the magic as you enter Gringotts bank at Universal Studios Florida’s Diagon Alley. You’ll need the whole family to help navigate the perilous underground vaults and evade the wrath of malicious villains, as well as trolls and other creatures that stand between you and your return to Diagon Alley. Height requirement: 42 in (107cm)

Walt Disney World Resort

Expedition Everest — Legend of the Forbidden Mountain

Careen through the Himalayan mountains on a speeding train on this coaster while avoiding the clutches of the mythic Abominable Snowman at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Height requirement: 44 in (112cm)

Space Mountain

Families journey through the cosmos on Space Mountain’s galactic adventure at the Magic Kingdom. Whiz past shooting stars and celestial satellites during this space ride. Streak past orbs of light, wayward comets and migrant meteors as gravity pushes and pulls you through the wormhole. Height requirement: 44 in (112cm)

Barnstormer Starring The Great Goofini

Families can take flight above Storybook Circus at Disney’s Magic Kingdom with Goofy and his homemade stunt airplanes for a thrilling coaster ride. Hang on tight as The Great Goofini swoops and soars during his world-famous high-flying show. Height requirement: 35 in (89cm)

Seven Dwarfs Mine Train

Grab your lantern and your map and ride into the diamond mine on the rockingest, rollingest, twistiest train ride ever. Feel a rush of excitement, and enchantment too, as you take off on this adventurous family coaster at the Magic Kingdom. Height requirement: 38 in (97cm)

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

All aboard this family-friendly ride in the Magic Kingdom’s wilderness! Dash in and out of desert caverns and rumble through a haunted mine aboard a rollicking runaway train. Swoop around turns, dip, and drop into canyons and caves as you dart through the ghost town of Tumbleweed. Height requirement: 40 in (102cm) 

LEGOLAND Florida Resort Family Friendly Coasters

The Dragon

Climb aboard the LEGO Dragon and prepare for a hilarious, behind-the-scenes view of life within the enchanted LEGOLAND Castle. Height requirement: 40 in (102cm)

Flying School

Experience the thrill of flight on this suspended, family-friendly coaster. Rise stories into the air before being released onto the track. Height requirement: 44 in (112cm)

Coastersaurus

Fun for the whole family and perfect for little ones, this wooden coaster curves and dips in and around a prehistoric jungle of animated and life-sized LEGO brick dinosaurs. Height requirement: 42 in (107cm)

The Great LEGO Race

Having opened in 2018, this is the first virtual-reality roller coaster designed just for kids. Height requirement: 42 in (107cm)

Fun Spot America in Orlando

White Lightning

Experience the dips and drops of White Lightning! This wooden coaster is fun for the whole family. Height requirement 46 in (117cm)

Freedom Flyer

Throw your hands in the air and let your legs dangle on the twists and turns of Freedom Flyer. The whole family will feel a thrill on the swoops, twists and turns. Height requirement: 36 in (91cm)

SeaWorld Orlando Family Friendly Coasters

Journey to Atlantis

This exciting, family-friendly flume/coaster ride has more than its share of surprises. Explore dark, watery passageways through the sunken city before being plunged from its gates into the waters below. Height requirement:42 in (107cm)

Shamu Express

Introduce young adventurers to the excitement and fun of coaster rides with kid-sized thrills provided by one of the smaller members of the Shamu family. Height requirement 38 in (97cm)

 

Disney World – Did you know?

Things you can do at Disney World you probably didn’t know!

There are many things to enjoy at Walt Disney World that guests may never experience or even know about.  It can be hard to see beyond the park touring, dining, and FastPass planning, and families don’t often have time to do more than scratch the surface of what Walt Disney World has to offer.  Curious about some of these “extras?” From on-the-go food tips to exotic experiences, here are some things that you can do at Walt Disney World that you may not have tried. Which one will you go for on your next trip?

Get a haircut in the Magic Kingdom Disney World

Have you walked down Main Street Disney World many times and never noticed the Barber Shop?  It’s located between the fire station and the Emporium on the left side of the street.  How charming is the idea of having your child’s first haircut in the Main Street Barber Shop?  You can do just that (and get a special mouse ear hat commemorating the experience, to boot) at a very reasonable price.  Adults and children alike can enjoy the services, ranging from a quick bang trim, a full haircut, or even some styling with “pixie dust” (glitter).  There are only 3 chairs in the shop, so be sure to make a reservation in advance. However, you might be surprised to find walk-in availability as well.  If you love to watch the afternoon parade, consider an appointment during that time. The parade route ends just next to the barber shop, so you’ll be able to enjoy the parade through the shop’s window!

Disney World non-princess makeover

Makeovers at Walt Disney World are not just for little ones who want to be princesses anymore!  Now you can treat your little boy or girl to a pirate or mermaid-themed makeover at The Pirates League in the Magic Kingdom.  The packages range from under $20 to nearly $100 and include anything from simple makeup and accessories to more elaborate makeup, hair, and costuming.  Looking for another great alternative for a young prince? Try the Knight package at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, with locations at both at the Magic Kingdom and Disney Springs.

Play golf

Did you know that you can play golf on your Walt Disney World vacation?  Disney boasts 4 golf courses on property, three of which are 18-hole championship courses.  For more of a family experience, consider the 9-hole walking course that even features footgolf.

FastPass your food at Disney World

Have you tried Mobile Food and Beverage Ordering?  It’s sort of like a FastPass- for your food. Mobile ordering makes it more convenient to order, pay for, and pick up your food throughout Walt Disney World.  If you haven’t tried it yet, you must! It’s a huge timesaver and takes the stress out of wrangling orders from your family in a crowded food queue. Simply open the My Disney Experience app and tap “Order Food” to get started.  You may be surprised at how many quick service locations are available! Select your food from wherever you are (exiting a ride, for instance) and then check in when you have arrived at the restaurant. Your food will be prepared fresh when you arrive for you to pick up at a designated pick-up queue location.

Go fishing from a Disney World Marina

Love to fish? Enjoy a catch-and-release fishing excursion from many of Walt Disney World’s marinas.  Prefer fishing from land? You can rent fishing gear at Port Orleans Resort- Riverside and enjoy dockside fishing.

Disney World – Explore the utilidors

The Utilidors are a series of passageways beneath the Magic Kingdom; “in-character” cast members use them to travel across the park unseen.  They’re also used for a variety of other things, ranging from security to trash removal. If you’re keen on checking them out yourself, you’ll be happy to know that you can visit them as part of the Keys to the Kingdom Tour.  This add-on tour experience features some unique backstage looks at the park, and is reserved for guests ages 16 and older.

Get to know Epcot’s sealife

Now you know you can go fishing at Walt Disney World, but did you know you can take your aquatic adventures up a notch and actually interact with dolphins at Epcot?  The Dolphins in Depth experience takes place at the Seas with Nemo and Friends Pavilion and includes a backstage look at how the dolphins are cared for, as well as time to interact with the dolphins in the water.  Looking to explore the many other creatures in the massive Seas saltwater aquarium? Consider snorkeling in the Epcot Seas Aqua Tour. Guests who are scuba certified can also dive in the same spaces as part of the DiveQuest experience- you may notice people participating in this event when you dine at the Coral Reef restaurant!

 

 

Ways to explore Orlando

Ways to explore Orlando

SunRail – travel the tracks, a great way to explore Orlando

Orlando’s commuter rail service is a fun, easy and affordable way to explore Orlando and Central Florida. Running from Poinciana in the south, about 20 minutes from Walt Disney World, to DeBary in the north, about 30 minutes from downtown Orlando, SunRail usually operates Monday through Friday, although limited weekend service is offered during major events. Southbound service is available from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m., with northbound trains running from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. One-way tickets start at $2 per passenger, and round-trip tickets can be had for as little as $3.75.

Royal Palm Railway Experience – a scenic way to explore Orlando

Located in Tavares, about 50 minutes north of downtown Orlando, Royal Palm offers scenic day excursions to nearby Mount Dora and Eustis, recreating the experience of 1950s rail travel along the way. They also operate The Polar Express Train Ride during the holidays, as well as the Rails & Ales Brew Train. Pricing starts as low as $10 per passenger for the regular routes.

Winter Park Scenic Boat Tour – a relaxing way to explore Orlando

Noted for acclaimed dining and shopping, a high concentration of museums and galleries, and tree-lined, cobblestoned streets, Winter Park is one of Central Florida’s most gorgeous communities — but you can only see half of its beauty by land so another way to explore Orlando is by boat. Priced at just $15 for adults and $8 for kids, the Winter Park Scenic Boat Tour will take you “behind the scenes” for a breath taking, relaxing look at the city’s pristine waterways, as well as the multimillion-dollar mansions that dot the shorelines.

Airboat & Kayak Tours – an adventurous way to explore Orlando

You can explore the headwaters of the Florida Everglades and other beautiful Central Florida waterways with airboat tour operators throughout the area. In Orlando, they include Airboat Rides at Midway, and Boggy Creek Airboat Adventures, Kissimmee Swamp Tours, Spirit of the Swamp Airboat Rides, and Wild Florida Airboats and Gator Park all operate out of Kissimmee close to Walt Disney World.

For a slower-paced water adventure where you can really take in the scenery (and get a workout while you’re at it), opt for a kayak tour with Central Florida Nature Adventures and other local operators.

 I-Ride Trolley – a great hop on hop off way to explore Orlando

Between attractions, dining, shopping and entertainment, you could easily spend an entire vacation just exploring Orlando’s International Drive area — especially when you let the I-Ride Trolley do the driving! More transportation than tour, this service runs through our main tourism district from 8 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. daily. It’s also highly affordable, with a one-day pass priced at just $5 and deep discounts on multiday passes.

Florida Dolphin Tours & Transportation – a great sight seeing way to explore Orlando

With more than 23 years of experience and partnership with the worldwide City Sightseeing Tours organization, Florida Dolphin Tours & Transportation is a name you can trust when it comes to touring and is a great way to explore Orlando and other points of interest throughout Central Florida. For starters, they operate an eight-hour “City of Orlando” tour that focuses on areas away from the theme parks, including downtown Orlando and Winter Park, priced at $50

They also offer express shuttles to Walt Disney World Resort and Universal Orlando Resort, with pickup and drop-off locations throughout the International Drive area, plus shopping excursions, dolphin swim tours, trips to Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complexon Florida’s east coast, and more. Shuttle services start at $10 per guest, and pricing for other tours varies by package.

Hop On! Central Florida Brew Tours

Beer-lovers won’t want to miss this way to explore Orlando, which ferries up to 12 passengers to some of the most popular microbreweries in the Orlando area. They offer a trio of four-hour routes, each priced at $40 per passenger, that visit four different breweries, including those in downtown Orlando, Winter Park and Seminole County. Private tours are also available, as is a “Ticket and Pregame” package for Orlando City Soccer Club home games.

Gray Line of Orlando & Gator Tours of Orlando

Founded as Gator Tours of Orlando in 1993, this company’s expertise and impeccable service attracted the attention of global tour operator Gray Line, which became an official partner in 2006. They offer a way to explore Orlando starting at $70 per passenger, as well as daily trips to Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, beach and boat tours, eco tours, and fun evening activities for the whole family.

SwampBike Pub Crawl –a different way to explore Orlando

Put the pedal to the metal with SwampBike Pub Crawl, a one-of-a-kind pedicab service that tours popular watering holes in and around Orlando’s International Drive area. What makes it stand out is that six of the SwampBike’s 15 passenger seats are equipped with working pedals, so you won’t have to skip leg day while enjoying some of the best adult beverages in Orlando. Lasting approximately two hours, public tours cost $20 per person, and private tours are available for $250.

Redi Pedi Cab Company

Part of International Drive’s landscape since 2006, this pedicab operator offers three different, one-hour excursions to explore Orlando, which respectively focus on I-Drive’s most famous landmarks, historic selfie locations, and the best places to play Pokémon Go. All three cost $60.00 plus gratuity, with a maximum of two passengers per pedicab.

* Prices accurate at time of publishing

 

 

 

 

 

Orlando Activities to visit other than the theme parks

Many people don’t know what to do if they’re looking for something beyond the pricey Disney attractions. Here are some ideas for other Orlando activities to visit on International Drive

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International Drive is a good place for things to do in Orlando. It’s an 11 mile stretch of roadway that serves as a highly popular tourist district for the city. Here you’ll find attractions that appeal to the whole family – from amusement parks to the largest observation wheel on the east coast.

 Escape Game

The Escape Game is a live 60-minute adventure. You and your team will select a challenge and will have one hour to complete your mission and escape. Up to 8 players will be challenged in this Escape Game by working together to find clues, solve puzzles, and unlock locks that will free them from the game room

I-Drive NASCAR Kart Racing – One of the fastest track paced Orlando attractions

This is the first upscale indoor kart racing facility. Featuring high performance electric go-karts inside a 65,000 sq ft. State-of-the-art climate controlled facility. It also offers bowling, gaming and a full-service restaurant/bar.

Madame Tussauds at ICON Orlando 360- One of the great Orlando tourist attractions

See life-size figures of your favourite celebrities at Madame Tussauds. Dazzle your friends with the ultimate selfie because this is the place to SEE the stars & BE the star.

Ripley’s Believe It or Not! – Yes believe that this is one of the most unusual Orlando activities

Come and escape the normal! Browse hundreds of bizarre and uncanny artefacts. With 16 themed galleries with over 600 extraordinary artefacts and exciting interactive exhibits at this unique attraction. This is a Wacky, wild, and interactive family fun activity for all ages.

 SEA LIFE Orlando Aquarium at ICON Orlando 360

SEA LIFE Orlando offers a wave of underwater adventures with species from the oceans of the world and is one of the great visual aquatic Orlando tourist attractions. Be immersed in an aquatic adventure as you explore the world’s oceans. This is an attraction that offers an exceptional experience for young families, as there are numerous interactive displays, kid-level viewing and a hands-on rock pool.

VR Territory Orlando

Be completely immersed within vibrant worlds beyond your imagination. Choose from over 30 games to play with stunning graphics making it feel so real and surreal simultaneously. At VR Territory Orlando Florida you can walk, run, sit and strafe with 360-degree freedom of movement allowing you to have full control without restraints.

WonderWorks

This upside down house is an amusement park for the mind with over 100 interactive exhibits for visitors of all ages and is one of the crazier Orlando attractions. It combines education and entertainment with more than 100 hands on exhibits that challenge the mind and spark the imagination. Special features of the attraction include a 4D extreme motion ride, 3 story indoor ropes challenge course, lazer-tag and a nightly magic comedy dinner show.

Fun Spot America – Orlando activities for all the family

Entertainment for the whole family at this old fashioned funfair with Orlando Florida’s only wooden roller coaster, multi-level go-kart tracks that will provide a one of a kind riding experience, the World’s 2nd tallest SkyCoaster at 250 ft, a 101-foot high Ferris wheel, bumper cars, bumper boats, and of course, a giant arcade with 180 exciting games ranging from the Classics to State-of-the-Art. Kid’s Spot rides are smaller, gentler versions of the adult ones and geared for children ages 2-6 years old.. There is also Gator Spot, a 15,000 sq ft oasis with over 100 gators, exotic reptiles and birds!

 Titanic the Artefact Exhibition – One of historical things to do in Orlando  

 You can explore on your own, or have the full experience of the guided tour. Dressed up as a former passenger of the Titanic, your guide leads the way through the exhibits and tells stories about what life was like on the ship before it sank in 1912. These are real stories of real passengers and there are actual artefacts from the ship itself featuring full-scale recreations of famous parts of the ship, including the Grand Staircase, the First Class Parlor Suite and the Promenade Deck,

Zombie Outbreak – One of the more live action packed Orlando activities

This is a live action, interactive, zombie hunting experience. You’re provided with a real machine like gun zombie and you and your team aim to clear out a military research facility and save Orlando Florida from a very bad day. Actors portray zombies and they’re around every corner watching, reaching, and lurking. Dark, urban setting, and props increased the suspense.

 

 

 

Disney Springs one of the great Orlando tourist attractions

Disney Springs (which was known as Downtown Disney up until September of 2015) is a shopping, entertainment area and mall and is one of the Orlando tourist attractions located outside of the Walt Disney Parks. It is free to enter and has enough Disney magic to still feel like you are still inside the Disney parks.

Disney Springs one of the free things to do in Orlando is divided into 4 main areas, each with its own unique style, shopping, restaurants, and entertainment offerings. The Marketplace (the main shopping area) The Landing (an area along the waterfront and with many more restaurants) Town Centre (more shopping) West Side (more restaurants)

THE LANDING

The Landing now houses several new restaurants with beautiful waterfront views and a handful of new buildings that have been creatively Imagineered to look like they’ve been there for years.

WEST SIDE

This area was part of Downtown Disney and also a part of Disney Springs. The newly re-imagined West Side has a more industrial aspect to it and includes several popular restaurants and entertainment offerings including a bowling alley and movie theatre.

TOWN CENTER – one of the new Orlando tourist attractions

Town Center (a new area which was not a part of Downtown Disney) is themed after Florida’s turn-of-the-century waterfront towns and includes over 30 shops and a variety of dining options.

MARKETPLACE

This family-friendly area (which existed as a part of Downtown Disney) is home to many of the most popular shops at Disney Springs.

With the transition, an expansion of The World of Disney store has been completed to this section as well as a new “Village Causeway” which is a bridge that connects the area around The Lego Store across the water to nearby The Rainforest Cafe.

Amazing Orlando tourist attractions at Disney Springs include:

The Lego Store – One of the free things to do in Orlando

This is a gigantic store with lots of wonderful Lego and gigantic Lego sculptures such as the Loch Ness monster, a fire breathing dragon and the characters from Toy Story.

World’s biggest Disney Store ‘World of Disney’ 

Officially the largest Disney merchandise Orlando tourist attractions store in the world with 12 different rooms filled with everything Disney related.

Boat cruisesOne of the free things to do in Orlando

There are two main ‘routes’ that the boats take. One heads around 3 stops in Disney Springs. The other route goes to Disney resorts and then back to Disney Springs. Each cruise takes about 20 minutes return and are free of charge.

‘Characters in Flight’ balloon ride

This balloon is tethered to the ground. It soars 400 feet in the air and was custom built for Disney!

T Rex Restaurant and shopOne of the free things to do in Orlando

Almost like a mini museum inside with gigantic Amethyst rocks and reproductions of giant dinosaurs. To the right of the store is a dig pit for kids to explore.

Rainforest Café

A gigantic Orlando tourist attractions volcano that roars overhead with lots of animatronic animals to view for free both inside and outside.